Clinton aide's message: Modern media comes with no 'undo' button

Palmieri: New York Times' Clinton story likely a 'hit job'
Palmieri: New York Times' Clinton story likely a 'hit job'

Hillary Clinton's campaign for president called out The New York Times for reporting errors that she says weren't fully fixed by a correction.

"To suggest that the Democratic frontrunner for president is the subject of a criminal inquiry is something that can't be unwound," the Clinton campaign's communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, said Sunday.

She said the campaign is not "harboring any resentment" toward The Times now, but she wanted to be on the record about the flaws in a July 23 story originally titled "Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton's Use of Email."

The word "criminal" was used wrongly and was later corrected. But Clinton's aides feared that the story already did damage to the public's perception of the candidate.

Palmieri sent a sharply-worded letter to Times executive editor Dean Baquet last week, calling the story's errors "egregious." The campaign later shared the letter with the public.

The Times declined to comment on the campaign's complaint and declined to publish it, but Baquet told the newspaper's public editor Margaret Sullivan that its "screw-up" demonstrates why staffers must be "doubly vigilant and doubly cautious."

In a Sunday column, Sullivan weighed in with this critique: "Rushing to publish a scoop, The Times failed to make sure that the story was correct, and hurt its reputation for authoritative accuracy — precisely what its most loyal readers count on."

For Palmieri, who accused The Times of rushing to publish a poorly-sourced story, it was a case study in the perils of modern media.

Overall, in newsrooms, "there is an inclination to think, 'I want to be fast, and if it's wrong I can fix it online later.' And that's just so dangerous," Palmieri said when I interviewed her on CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday.

Palmieri's comments were part of the campaign's aggressive response to the original Times story, perhaps intended to send a message to the wider political press.

Clinton's relationship with the press has always been complicated; Carl Bernstein called it "a war" on Sunday's "Reliable Sources."

But Palmieri and her colleagues have sought a fresh start with reporters covering Clinton in recent months.

In Sunday's interview, she disagreed with the suggestion -- advanced by many critics of The Times -- that newspapers view Clinton as sleazy and secretive and harbor a secret agenda against her.

Instead, she said she wanted to make a specific point about the importance of getting stories right given "how fast these headlines spread" on social media as well as television and in print.

"Even if you can correct it," she said, "you can never undo whatever that first headline was."

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